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The not so beautiful game and the National Curriculum

29 June 2012

Following the capitulation of the England team to the inevitable unsuccessful penalty shootout last week, I considered the phrase “political football”. The phrase describes education policy precisely and this is preventing eyes from being focussed on the ball. If this were not the case, what would science education look like, and what would it need? Asking this is a useful exercise in my view, whereas navigation around political sensitivities is a shocking waste of time.

Of course, football is a game of two halves, and in science education there are those of us who can remember “the first half” – the days before the National Curriculum (and we celebrated its 21st birthday not long ago). In those days, ASE was busy working on excellence in teaching and learning science, as it is now. There is no doubt that compulsory science from the start of school to 16 helped our cause – the problem is that in the second half we got much more interference than we would have chosen.

If education were left to its own devices, perhaps a broad, undetailed entitlement curriculum would be appropriate, stating which subjects would be compulsory at which stages. Schools and teachers would really be responsible for their own curricula – and would have to hone their skills in creating these. With no political interference, the subjects chosen would be in alignment with the vision for the outcomes of the curriculum – so that the citizens emerging from the education system had the appropriate abilities for contemporary life.  

These local curricula could be based on the wise words of those who have studied how children develop and the local, national and international evidence, which is available to guide them. It is very curious that this is precisely the sort of language used by our political leaders while the actuality is far from this. I am waiting for politicians of all colours to work together for long-term improvement to education, which they will all agree will transcend politics and be solely focussed on the benefit of the student and the country at large.

This is all musing, of course, it is pretty certain that the genie is well and truly out of the bottle and that we’re never going to walk alone.


Nick Swift

Tue. 03/07/12

The problem with an Elysian view of education is that some of it does not work. Laziness and incompetence will have too much freedom (as in all walks of life).
The battle between education and government is the price we pay for progress, justice and tax payers' money. The message is to fight the good fight.Teachers do not deserve a free ride anymore than doctors, policemen or bankers. There is always a price to pay for justice and freedom.If anything is noble it is the political batttleground as expressed today in the select committee report on exam administration. So no, we will never walk alone and neither should we.

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